Sibling Adjustment and the New Normal

Philadelphia, PA 3/30/15

My specialty is helping families adjust to their "new normal" now that baby (or babies) has arrived.  I draw from my many years of experience as a nanny before becoming a postpartum doula to see places where adjustments can be made with the older children to make the transition more seamless. It isn't easy especially since each child and each family relationship is so widely different.  We as doulas don't often have a great deal of time to spend getting to know the family before we start setting up plans to help with the adjustment.  But our postpartum planning session done during pregnancy at least gives us a head start. Often, I use the phrase "let's throw it at the wall and see what sticks!"  This is my way to say that there is many ways to try to help kids adjust and I never know what is going to catch on with a particular kid. 

There is one thing that I do find to be a constant, kids need and love their parents.  They may or may not like the new baby or the commotions surrounding the event but the fact that they still need parents to remain the same as before is evident.  Kids need their parents to keep the structure and discipline that they have been teaching to remain tact.  This is not the time to let all your hard work go down the tubes.  This is the time to reinforce all the good things you have already taught your child.

If you find yourself saying "No!" more than "that's the way to do it!" It is time to step back and reevaluate what behavior you are reinforcing in big bro / big sis. 

Once you can get the routine back after the birth and hospital stay and the older child back on the right track then you can start encouraging big bro / big sis to help with the baby.  Kids are natural helpers and this is the time where they really shine. Ask the older one to tell you what jobs he or she would like to have to help you out.  I think it helps to let them think they are helping you rather than taking care of baby because it helps them to feel good that you (their hero) need their help.  They may not want to take care of the baby, they may even be afraid to hurt the baby, but you needing them is a very different story.

I don't like to compare kids in a family but it is inevitable to see your robust two or three year old as practically independent compared to the new little one.  The older child can do so much for himself that we can fall into the idea that they need us less than the little one.  This is not true.  Big brother or big sister need us just as much only in a very different way.  They need the routine of life to stay as close to normal as possible. This is way easier said than done in the sleep deprived state all new parents operate in but all efforts need to be made so that the transition from small family to larger family can be a content adjustment time for every one. 

Written by Postpartum Doula Cia
For more information about how postpartum doula Cia can support your expanding family transition, please call 484-802-6100 or register here: